2011: The Year in Review
The year 2011 starts off quite badly for quite a number of people in game development. Activision confirms the closure of James Bond: Blood Stone dev Bizarre Creations after failing to sell off the studio to another company, Disney shuts down Propaganda Games, devs of TRON: Evolution, and further downsizing at Disney hits Epic Mickey developer Junction Point after already 250 were sacked earlier by the publisher. Finally, Jowood runs into financial troubles and goes to court against Koch Media, trying to recuperate some money from shares that were sold off to Koch too cheap (according to Jowood).
Better news came from the big platform holders with Nintendo starting to release information regarding their 3DS handheld and Sony announcing PSN has 60 million users. On a less positive note for Sony, however, hackers have managed to find some exploits that allow people to get all possible Trophies of a game by using some jailbreak software. Things get even worse when hacker GeoHot manages to break the encryption key for the PS3, something Sony dislikes so much they sue the guy.
Take2 announces the release date for the game that holds the record for being under development for the longest time in history: Duke Nukem Forever!
The end of an era! Activision confirms they’re shutting down their entire Guitar Hero business unit, something that results in the closure of Guiter Hero developer 7Studios which Activision bought back in 2009. Further bad news from the Activision camp comes in the form that True Crime: Hong Kong has been cancelled. On the bright side: Activision expands their Call of Duty endeavours with an MMO that will be releasing in China and the startup of Beachhead which will be focusing on a digital-only platform for the Call of Duty brand.
While PC Gaming Alliance head honcho Matt Ployhar announces that piracy on PC is declining due to various countermeasures that add value to buying PC games as well as the free2play business model, Blizzard Entertainment turns to the dark side by announcing that Diablo 3 will also be heading towards consoles.
Electronic Arts confirms a reboot of Command&Conquer and a new Medal of Honor. On the negative side, Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm get leaked, and EA announces that Mirror’s Edge 2 will be put on hold indefinitely.
That PC games aren’t the only ones that get leaked is proven by Sony: they see their top title Killzone 3 leaked onto the internet. Further bad news for Sony comes in the form of a lawsuit between the console maker and LG which even sees Sony’s PS3 being banned in Europe due to supposed copyright infringements regarding Blu-ray playback.
Bethesda surprises the world by announcing they’re working on Prey 2 and releasing plenty of details and even a teaser trailer. It has been since 2008 that anyone had heard of the game.
Microsoft announces that their motion controller, Kinect, has sold no less than 10 million times and to make things even better, the controller has gotten into the Guinness Book of World records as the fastest selling consumer-electronic. Now all we need is decent games that use motion controls for something else than party games and on-rails shooters.
Talking about great games, Microsoft’s Kevin Unangst promises that Games for Windows Live will get better than it is. That shouldn’t be such a difficult task, but Unangst uses Age of Empires Online, Fable 3 for PC (port) and Bulletstorm as examples of great stuff for GfWL. Yes, we’re still not convinced it will get better.
Sony is still upset with the whole hacking stuff as well as their court dates with LG, but more interesting is the fact that the company cancels development of The Agency, the cross-platform spy MMO that was being developed by SOE Seattle. Sony also closes their studios in Denver and Tucson as a result.
THQ’s Homefront gets released, we immediately get the news that a sequel is already in the planning, but due to less than stellar reviews, the company’s stocks soar.
Jowood got into financial troubles back in January, and in April they close their doors for real.
With E3 coming up, plenty of rumours start popping up all over the place that Nintendo is going to present the successor to the Wii. That Nintendo head honcho Saturo Iwata states he isn’t satisfied with the launch of the 3DS only increases speculation that Nintendo is planning something big.
The really big news in April comes from Sony. They settle with hacker GeoHot, but see their entire Playstation Network go down due to hackers and plenty of users see their personal data compromised. That Sony isn’t really clear in their communications isn’t helping either and global outrage is what follows.
In March THQ saw its stock soar due to Homefront not performing as well as expected, and the results are immediately visible: Kaos Studios sees their team sized down to 70 people, just enough to keep supporting the game. Also Red Faction developer Volition is hit by THQ’s recent issues and has to see 16 people get laid off.
While rumours have been popping up about a new console generation, they’ve been constantly denied by all parties, with the platform holders constantly reassuring everyone there’s still juice left in the current generation, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot does what gamers have been thinking for a while already: he speaks out, saying the industry needs a new generation and that the current depression in the gaming industry is actually due to the fact the current generation has been running for so long already.
Activision’s big news in May is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and the online subscription-based Call of Duty: Elite service that’s being developed by Beachhead. Little surprises there, except that Infinity Ward is at the helm and that everyone’s looking forward to what the studio will be able to do without its former founders at the helm.
Meanwhile, Eden Games, developers of Test Drive Unlimited 2, have gone on strike after news breaks out that 51 of the total 80 people at the studio would be losing their jobs. The devs claim that they’re paying for Atari’s mismanagement. Later on, Atari officially decreases Eden Games to only 30 employees and parts ways with Cryptic Games, makers of Champions Online.
More jobs meanwhile get lost at Disney who have confirmed Black Rock (devs of Split/Second: Velocity) have been downsized with around 100 employees, leaving the studio with about 40.
Blizzard starts promoting Diablo 3 some more and shows off the first trailer for Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and it becomes clear the developer needs to do something as their subscriptions for the hit MMO World of Warcraft are going downhill fast in the West and have hit the same level as that back in December 2008.
Sony continues to have issues with hackers, but towards the end of the month, PSN finally comes back online. Meanwhile, SOCOM 4 developer Zipper Interactive sees its workforce decreased with about 40 people, something that according to Sony is “business as usual” when a game gets released.
It’s E3 but the big news comes from Electronic Arts who announce Origin, a new digital service that will not only be used as a form of copy protection system for games but also be an online shop. Yes, Valve’s Steam suddenly gets competition!
As was rumoured before, Nintendo unveils the successor to the Wii, the Wii U. Or is it a successor? Nobody’s really clear about that, and the shareholders apparently aren’t impressed with it either: Nintendos stock drops to the lowest level in five years time.
Sony’s E3 is overshadowed by all the shenannigans regarding the downtime and hacking of PSN, but ont he bright side they officially unveil the PS Vita, their next handheld which is supposed to succeed where the PSP (and PSPGo) failed: conquer the handheld market. Sony also reiterates that we shouldn’t expect a successor to the Playstation3 anytime soon.
Take2 sees Rockstar’s LA Noire do great at retail, but the release of Duke Nukem Forever is less than stellar. Review ratings (which are mostly on Xbox360 while the game was primarily a PC title) are a big bust. On a positive note, 2K Games fires a PR company that threatened journalists to blacklist them if they would post negative reviews of the game.
Following layoffs at Homefront developer Kaos Studios in March, THQ completely closes down the developer and moves development of Homefront 2 completely to its new studio in Montreal.
The Summer starts with the end for Split/Second developer Black Rock who get shut down by Disney after an new unannounced project doesn’t get greenlit.
Following EA’s announcement regarding their new online service, Origin, several of EA’s games disappear from Valve’s competing service, Steam. EA states this isn’t a stategic move to hurt the competition, but that they rather want to have full control over when they release updates. That they never used to have a problem with that in the past is something they suddenly have forgotten.
Nintendo tries to make up for a less than stellar E3, but following disappointing financial results the company sees its stock drop even further and no talking regarding how great the Wii U will be seems capable of turning the tide.
While Ubisoft has been hammered time and time over again regarding their intrusive DRM that requires a permanent internet connection, Blizzard announces that Diablo 3 will require it as well. The gaming community reacts quite hefty, something the devs at Blizzard hadn’t expected. I guess they live in some alternate universe if they hadn’t seen that coming.
More outrage from the gaming community arrives when Electronic Arts changes their EULA that will allows their Origin service to collect data from your system. EA doesn’t see this as an invasion of privacy (which gamers tend to not agree with) but the public outrage is so big that they change it back nonetheless.
Good news arrives for fans of the True Crime series: the development of the game wasn’t halted and United Front Games has signed an agreement with SquareEnix for publishing. It won’t be called True Crime anymore, but at least it’s still alive.
Following negative feedback regarding inhumane working conditions at the studio, LA Noire developer Team Bondi has gone bankrupt after Rockstar pulled out as they didn’t want to have anything to do with the bad PR surrounding the developer.
Disappointing sales results and similarly negative review scores make Codemasters announce they’re looking to close down their Guildford studio responsible for Bodycount. Going even further, the publisher announces that from now on they’ll focus more on their racing IPs and drop other genres.
Electronic Arts and Sony both change their terms of service to make sure people cannot start up a class-action lawsuit against them. Opting out is a possibility, but only if you send a letter (not an email) to either company within 30 days of the change.
Meanwhile, EA shuts down Visceral Games Australia who were working on an unannounced Triple A console title. Their previous work included Dead Space and The Godfather II.
There’s also positive news coming from EA in September: a reboot of Syndicate gets announced. However, instead of isometric 3D, it will be a first person shooter. Except for the setting, it seems there will be little left from the original game.
Microsoft starts to gloat: Gears of War 3 gets released and sells 3 million copies in the first week. Their gloating won’t last long as there are other titles coming up quickly that break that record.
As if E3 wasn’t bad enough for Nintendo and its upcoming Wii U console, rumours start floating around the new device has hardware issues, making that the Wii U would see its release date postponed.
After three years of development, Rockstar finally unleashes the first trailer for Max Payne 3 and gives even a release date: the game will be released in March 2012.
Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 gets leaked but Activision is on it: cops get sent out to take down anyone using a pirated copy.
Big news from Blizzard: a new expansion for World of Warcraft gets announced, and to make things even better, the company states that people who subscribe to their hit MMO will be getting Diablo 3 for free.
EA shuts down EA Bright Light, the legendary studio that used to be known as Bullfrog. Their recent work included the Harry Potter games, but they’ll for ever be remembered as creators of Populous, Syndicate and Dungeon Keeper.
Battlefield 3 gets released and even though EA’s Origin service isn’t working as stable as they might have wanted it to be at the start, the reviews are overly positive. And so are the initial sales.
After Max Payne 3′s first trailer in September, Rockstar has again major news in October: Grand Theft Auto V is coming!
Modern Warfare 3 storms the sales charts all over, reviews are raving and Activision confirms we’ll be seeing new Call of Duty games on a yearly basis.
Meanwhile, Rockstar releases the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto V which also a gameplay trailer for Max Payne 3 gets out in the open. Take2 announces during a conf call regarding their latest financials that 2012 will be their best year ever.
Ubisoft shows us all they don’t really see the PC as an equal gaming platform for consoles. After constantly pushing back PC versions of their games, they announce that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier won’t be coming to PC at all, and that PC gamers will have to do with the Free2Play game Ghost Recon Online. Ubi claims they’ve listened to PC gamers all around the world and will stop with their annoying DRM. By focusing PC development on Free2Play games.
Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V enters the sales charts at number one during the first week of December, beating Activision’s Modern Warfare 3, and manages to ship ten million copies before the month is over. Without a doubt, Skyrim is the year’s biggest commercial success while Activision’s flagship shooter cannot even hold onto the second place in the UK sales charts.
Electronic Arts announces that the reboot of the Command & Conquer series which was announced back in February is Generals 2 and not a sequel to the original series nor Red Alert. Next to that, EA is also working on another C&C game called Tiberium Alliances which will be a free2play MMO for web browsers and portable devices.
GSC Games is rumoured to be shutting down and development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 seems to have halted. However, before the year is over, the company updates its twitter with word that things may not be as bad as they seem and that in January they’ll be releasing an update on their situation.
Sony has had a bad year so far and their problems aren’t over yet. December sees a class action lawsuit being started against the console giant for changing their terms of service with a note that prohibits people for starting up class action lawsuits. Yes, Americans can have a sense of humour!